It’s going to happen to us all. You hear a song, maybe once, maybe twice. You tap your feet under your desk in your day job. The chorus sticks in your head, and you sing it back to yourself; there, then, and over and over again later on. It won’t leave and it certainly won’t get out! The phenomenon you experience is called an earworm. For those who haven’t had the experience of one already, it found fame in Emma Stone’s infamous birthday card scene in Easy A. But why, like Cady, do we get certain lyrics and melodies stuck in our head no matter what we do? Even if we don’t like them?
A recent study has shown that retention of a certain bridge or set of lyrics depends how thick your brain is in the areas related to perception, emotions, memory and spontaneous thought. It follows then, that incredible earworm magic might pave the path to your band’s super success.
Now that you’re reading HEY MICKEY, we bet you’ll be unable to get it out of your head. After all, where would The Killers be without Mr. Brightside? Or OutKast without Hey Ya!? Or Nirvana without Smells Like Teen Spirit? (This one, in part, we also have to credit to Kathleen Hanna) or Joy Division without Love Will Tear Us Apart? We’re going to stop now, before you’re overloaded with earworms, but we think you get the message.
When you’ve got a track that you know deserves the best in memorable Monikers, doing it justice with a great name will fulfill its potential to soar right up with the rest of the greats. Often though, you might feel overwhelmed with choice. Never fear as we’ve outlined a few of things you can use to title your tremendous tune.
Pick a Lyric
We’ll start with the easiest one. Pick a lyric. For maximum impact and memorability, this will usually be found in your chorus, or at a stretch – your bridge. Start by playing your songs to your most-honest of friends, and see which bits they pick out to chime back at you. This will often be the part that’s so important, it’s worth saying twice. If it’s worth saying twice, it’s certainly worth using as your memorable title. Think Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’. What would it be without the repetition!? For one thing, not as fearlessly foot stomping.
Fans love a sing-along, and anything broken up into smaller, punchier syllables (sing it with us…DES-PA-CITO…) will stick in their minds and have them carefully clicking replay over and over and over on Spotify. It’ll also help your listener to tie the music and chorus with the title, and link the melody and title to an emotion they feel. They’ll in turn be reminded of your song more easily, meaning more plays from punters, which means more chances for people to hear, engage with, and respond to your band.
Raise an Emotion
If you’re not down with using a repetitive part, you might instead look to appeal to your audience’s more sensitive side. When you appeal to an emotion, you immediately draw your fans into the experience of the song. For example, ‘Stop! In The Name of Love” by The Supremes instantly conjures the implication of a perilous-yet-loving relationship, and a cry for help, all in six small worlds. Another place you see this in is “Don’t You Want Me?” by The Human League. You recognize in an instant the song is about lovers, even before the addition of a second voice. This invests your emotions instantly, and removes the need for time-wasting exposition.
You can also use this effect in shorter titles, but be careful how you pick your words. “Happy” by Pharell, for example – works wonders as it is repeated in the song’s lyrics and atmosphere. Despite the use of a single word, Pharell is able to convey the feel and motion of his track. Calling it “fun” would not have the same effect. It’s all about how you use your words, and when. Good thing you’re a poet, right? We believe in you.
If you’re not into evoking emotions, or loving lyrics, then the last way to ensure your words hit home is to appeal to intellect. As a human, you’re curious by nature. Gifting your masterpiece with a mysterious title will excite, intrigue, and invest the listener in the song. This style is best suited to your storytelling song that builds a slow narrative, in the style of a murder ballad or a folk song. An obvious example is “Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Who, you ask, has the red right hand? How did it get so? Is it covered in blood, or just tomato soup? You have to know. This mystery drives the song ever forward, as your listener waits for the song to conclude.
It’s demonstrated marvellously in Panic! At The Disco’s “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”. You are pulled in by the concept of the sin – who is sinning? Could it have been a tragedy? How does the narrator know? The title is also a masterclass in manipulating emotion. Without the qualifier, you might consider the events that unfold a tragedy; however, with it, the song becomes full of a maverick type of hope, and assures us the narrator reveals nothing but the bride’s sins. The song even touches on repetition (musically), with an opening five notes that are no doubt now set to be your earworm for the rest of the day. It’s the ultimate catchy tune and title combination, and a very good place to look to get inspiration.
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